Communities secretary Sajid Javid has announced his department is conducting a review of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and called on them to ensure ‘every penny you spend is transparent and justified’ after allegations of questionable spending.
However the secretary of state stopped short of announcing a government investigation into the issue and called on council accounting officers to look into any serious local allegations.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid
Following the revelations in the Daily Mail about LEP cash awarded to businesses owned or connected to LEP members, an updated assurance framework for LEPs has already been published.
However the framework still allows LEPs to outline a locally bespoke transparency framework rather than operate to a single set of rules.
Mr Javid said: ‘We have been running a review from our end to see how the role of LEPs can be strengthened but I don’t want you to wait until the end of that review or even be asked to go out there and show us what you are capable of.
‘We all know that last year’s headlines about fat cats investing in their own businesses do not reflect the actions of the vast, vast majority of LEPs. But if we are going to get maximum value for taxpayer’s money and if the public are going to trust that you will deliver, you have to make sure that every penny you spend is transparent and justified.
‘That’s why we strengthened the rules around how funds can be spent and invested, because the funds that you invest on behalf of your communities is not your money, it’s not my money, it’s taxpayers money, every last penny.’
Mr Javid told Transport Network: ‘In terms of the allegations which have been made against LEPs it will be accounting officers for each LEP who usually work in local authorities and that’s where if there is any accusation they should probably investigate and of course if there are serious allegations then they should be investigated.’
One senior source at DCLG said he was confident LEPs had acted in good faith and would be able to justify their spending but the lack of transparency at some of the bodies was 'an own goal'.